When Eddy Guerrero was my age, he’d been dead for two years. – paraphrase of Tom Lehrer viz. Mozart
Comedy and tragedy are mixed when it’s the truth, and for me, unfortunately, that’s the truth.
It’s a grey, dreary day today here in West Bumf*ck, Kansas. The sun attempted to break through and failed as miserably as Cody Pickett attempting to complete a pass. It’s threatened to rain but failed to follow through on that as well. And the soundtrack? Gotta be the voice of someone else taken from us far, far too young with far too much yet to give: Karen Carpenter…
Loneliness and empty days will be my only friend
From this day love is forgotten; I’ll go on as best I can…
Look, folks, be happy it’s “Goodbye To Love”. I could have gone total cliche and quoted “Rainy Days And Mondays”.
This is a bad time of year for me regardless. My holiday depression starts at about All Saints’ Day and continues through to New Years’, as I have to face the fact that I’m another year older while everyone else is celebrating the glad tidings of the season. This situation right now does not help one bit. I can’t even take a little schadenfreude in everyone being as saddened as I am because this one’s a hard blow.
I should think about the positives. For a change, I have some in my life. It looks like that job in Kansas City is mine to lose; I do a formal interview with them on Thursday morning. I’ve got a phone interview with a company in Indiana this morning. If those fail, I’ve always got my sales job to fall back on to try to get a little money coming in. Dubbaya’s poll numbers are falling through the floor; they’re now as low as Clinton’s at his worst. They’re finding dirt on the Neocon Religious Reich Tool Alito in regard to abortion, which is just the thing to spike his nomination. Hell, the Bears are 6-3, something I thought couldn’t be handled without a phone call to the Vatican and some well-placed bribes. However, when it comes to the Ultimate Question, life and death, all of that seems petty.
You know, it would have been easier on us if it was drugs, like with Elizabeth or Hennig or Fill-In-The-Blank. Or if it was some stupid post-operative complication like with Candido. Or even murdered like Bruiser Brody. Just the fact that it seems to have been Fate, something as…well, common and normal as a massive heart attack…people who live outsized lives like wrestlers aren’t supposed to die of anything normal. If we could justify it, put the blame on something other than Act Of God, it would help. But we can’t, and it turns us to Rage Against The Dying Of The Light. Instead, we’re left with the evidence: a thirty-eight-year-old man, married, with three daughters, about ready to reach the pinnacle of his profession yet again, popular, loved by everyone, admired as a paragon of his chosen career, lying on a hotel bathroom floor with a toothbrush in his hand. This is something that we want a reason for happening, something to point to and say, “J’accuse!” And we don’t have it. And thus the connection that’s forged between performer and fans is broken asunder, suddenly, without warning, without a chance for the affection to lessen, when that connection was strong and vibrant and growing even moreso.
If we could feel more lost right now, ABC would give us a time slot.
Honestly, this is one of the toughest lead-ins I’ve ever had to write. I’ve been doing this for almost six years now, and only once have I felt the level of frustration I am now in getting words on to the screen. That was at the End of WCW. I’d earned a Silver Star on the WCW Death Watch, having to cover week by week the slow disintegration of a once-noble organization. When it was announced that Vince had bought WCW, a possibility that I’d dubbed The Unthinkable when the first rumors came out of it happening, all of us in the IWC were in a complete daze for a week. It’s not like we knew the end wasn’t near; virtually every single angle was covered, all the players involved were identified (that’s how I won the Silver Star, by being the only person in the IWC to point out the key position of Jamie Kellner and his track record of slash-and-burn television network managing), it was only a matter of time. But we’d dismissed the possibility that Time-Warner would sell out to Vince. It was just too preposterous. We still hadn’t wrapped it around our heads when the final episode of Nitro came on and Vince appeared on screen. Writing in this environment made me think of what it must have been like for an AP guy in Saigon in 1975. It was as big a mindf*ck as watching the events of the last six months of 1989 from the ringside seat known then as West Germany. It was also as big a mindf*ck as watching the events from Moscow in August 1991, with the added benefit of being scared as shit since I was going to be transferred back to the US in two weeks and the coup could have royally f*cked that up…
…sorry for the digression there, but I’m just trying to set the stage. If you weren’t writing back then, you don’t know what it was like during those early months of 2001 trying to cover wrestling. It was overwhelming, trying to sort out the truth from the half-truths, bullshit rumors, and outright lies. And then when the end came, it brought with it the least possible denoument that we expected. We were thrown for a loop, and we admitted it.
But this…this is different. Yes, we’re thrown for a loop here as well. However, the End of WCW left us with an opening. There was a new beginning that went along with it, with infinite possibilities, and God knows we wrote about all of them, starting with the announcement of the sale, then refining those possibilities when Shane came into the ring at Panama City. There was light at the end of the tunnel; the fact that the light turned out to be the oncoming diesel known as the Invasion is a moot point. But now? A man is dead. He can’t do anything more. All avenues are closed. We can only speculate on what might have been, an exercise in futility since it won’t bring him back. We’re cut off from our comfort zone. There’s nothing positive this can spun into without delving into at the very least borderline bad taste.
I have to admit this: I get off on having a column. I get off on having what is a very popular, long-lasting column. I do it because it’s fun, and I still have the passion for wrestling that I’ve had for more than twenty years now. But sometimes it becomes a burden. And sometimes, like this week, it becomes an incredible burden, one that makes you wonder if you’re still capable of doing it. Then I think back to Sunday and the mails I received for what I said, where even people like Matthew Peters, who would consider me Satan if I gave blood transfusions to dying Republicans while developing a cure for Asian bird flu, said that I perfectly encapsulated what they thought. Where people like the Ravin’ Cajun and Smitty write me and share their feelings about Eddy, and I feel a little less alone, and they feel less alone because they have someone they can write to who they know will listen. And the burden lifts. But only a bit.
Yes, this is a pothole in a road. But it’s one of those potholes that can swallow your car. So let’s all make it through this. Together.
THE PIMP SECTION
First of all, kudos to the entire wrestling section. I’ve already complimented them on the job they’ve done the past two days in the Super Secret Writers’ Forum. Now let me do it in public. I’ve never been prouder to have been part of a team than I have seeing us exhibit such grace under pressure as this. Bravo. And special thanks to guys from other sections like Matt Basilo and Steve Price who mentioned Eddy. Situations like this show why I’m proud to write for IP.
I also want to thank the AP and other mainstream news organizations. Too often they portray wrestling as a freak show, but their coverage of this story has been fair and exemplary. Special kudos to MSNBC for their interview with High-Quality Speaker Boy on Monday. It set the right tone and provided someone who knew Eddy very, very well and was his friend to tell the world what all of us in the IWC knew about him. Maybe this will help humanize pro wrestling a bit. I just hope that tonight’s MSNBC thing doesn’t break this trend.
Lucard lives in Minneapolis and knows some guys who work for WWE, so he was able to make last-minute arrangements to cover the Sunday show for us. I can’t use the term “thank you” enough this week, so I’ll throw another out to him.
Eagle goes after New Jack Swing and some of the abysmal black musical acts of the late 80s. I can’t begin to tell how much much space was wasted in magazines like Rolling Stone on this “movement” in between the articles on hair metal groups. In fact, I think I’ll blame the music of the late 80s for driving me into the Army.
Paul tries to come to terms with The Devil’s Music.
Hatton renames his Marvel column, while Stevens stands pat with DC.
IS THERE ANYTHING I SHOULD COVER?
Well, Another Phil Collins-Related PPV was this weekend, and, honestly, I would have watched it by now, but PWTorrents, like every other wrestling website, got swamped over the past couple days due to events, and I wasn’t able to start downloading it until yesterday afternoon. So I can’t really comment on the PPV per se until I watch it. I’ll probably have some follow-up comments this weekend in the Short Form in the Impact section.
However, I can comment about two “arrivals”, can’t I?
First of all, Justin Asshole. This makes it official: Jeff Jarrett is a mark for the Clique*. Sean Waltman pulls a disappearing act? Kevin Nash gets sick before a PPV and has been a no-show since? Bring in f*cking P. J. Jockstrap-Head. The only saving grace in this whole situation is that he was forced to job to Raven in the Battle of Former ECW World Champions that almost seems to be obligatory for TNA PPVs now. It’s appropriate because I’m more convinced today than I was five years ago that Justin’s title reign was due to him possessing pictures of Paul Heyman with a semi-willing donkey. The only way I’m going to be happy about this is if 1) this is a one-shot or 2) if it isn’t a one-shot, Lance Storm comes in to make a save, preferably if Peej is facing a member of Team Canada.
* – “Clique”: coterie of wrestlers gathered around Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash who created a power base in the then-WWF in the mid-90s, along with various extensions as time went on; supposedly, Dave Meltzer gave them that name. “Kliq”: Michaels’ nickname for his fanbase, viz. Cena’s Chain Gang, created as an inside reference to the actual Clique. I am sick and tired of otherwise good wrestling columnists getting this wrong. I’m even more sick and tired of smelly little pissant whiteboard denizens using the term “Kliq” to show off how much alleged insider knowledge they have about what was going on ten years ago. To me, using that term shows that you know far less than you think.
Now, Christian Luke Cage…as I said, I would have thought Japan to be a better option for him at this point due to the overcrowding at the top of the TNA roster thanks to Jarrett using the belt as his personal pleasure device. They’re now obligated to give him first shot at the strap, and if they know what they’re doing, give it to him. Strike while the iron is hot and shove it straight up Vince’s ass in the process and all that. And in the meantime, the rest of the cast get to spin their wheels. Raven, Abyss, Sabu, Rhiyno, etc., get to spend more time in the Grievous Bodily Harm Division, as I’ve finally decided to name it, attempting to kill each other and themselves by ever-escalating means. Nash has to be shoehorned in if he recovers from his mystery ailment. Lance Hoyt, despite the fact that I don’t like him, is getting a push and great audience pops and is going nowhere. And then there’s Monty, but I’ve spent enough electronic ink on him to choke a horse simply by myself. Other IWC denizens have joined me in the effort to strangle the entire herd. All get to spend more time in neutral to satisfy Christian’s needs.
What exactly was the nature of the deal that brought him to TNA? He couldn’t have held them up for very much money unless Dixie Carter has a fetish for ex-goth Canadians. It must have been something non-material, but which could be included in a gentleman’s agreement, like a guaranteed title reign. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case. So, if it’s inevitable, when does it happen? Obviously in the “first match of 2006” that Spike will put on right after New Years’ strikes (on the East Coast; for those of us who live in more civilized climes, it will still be 2005). Ring in the New Year by seeing Christian beat the holy hell out of Jarrett, with the help of the ex-Dudleys, no doubt.
So, with that being the case, how exactly will a Christian title reign help TNA? Their problem right now is perception. The casual audience regards them as second-rate to WWE when it comes to the main-event scene. The X Division stands on its own, of course, and, yes, it’s a major attraction to get people to watch (as in the “you won’t believe this shit” word-of-mouth factor). However, it’s the main-eventers who draw the casual crowd. What is Christian bringing to the table in this regard? We know that he was criminally misused over the last year or so by WWE. The Great Unwashed don’t. They see him as someone who, time and time again, tried to rise to the top and couldn’t make it. Unfortunately, that’s the audience that TNA has to tap into in order to get their ratings above the 1.0 Mendoza Line. To that audience, Christian has a mild stench of failure surrounding him. It isn’t truckstop-bathroom-level, but it is lockeroom-after-a-hard-football-practice intensity. There may be too much work involved to overcome that, especially in the time frame that they have to achieve the goals listed above.
So, is this a good acquisition for TN
A? Is this a good place for Christian to go? Right now, it’s too soon to tell on both fronts. But if TNA screws this up, and if it causes them to lose one of their top guys to WWE for being stuck in the pack (and I’m looking at Monty; he’d look so great on Raw right now), then it
wasn’t the right decision to make. Too many things can go wrong with this right now to be comfortable with it.
Now, as to the other big story of the beginning of the week, namely the sale of NJPW to Yukes…I know American game companies pretty well. Since I regard consoles as the tools of Satan, I don’t know Japanese companies. I’m going to leave this up to the guys in Games to decide whether or not this might be a good fit. However, we do know that Inoki was losing money and needed an angel to come in. If this saves a legendary federation like New Japan, I’m all for it. But if Yukes is Japanese for “Vivendi”, I’m scared.
As for being scared, I’m scared right now about doing Raw. I’m going to want to snark considering some of the matches being presented, but that would be a big-time Farting In Church moment. This is a tribute show. This is not one of their stupid regular episodes. Saying the wrong thing would be so easy…yeah, I know, since when have I ever worried about saying the wrong thing? Babs Olsen and all that. Well, there’s a difference. I hated Babs Olsen, I don’t care much for the Pentagon, and I didn’t give a shit about September 11th when I said that in October 2001. Eddy was someone I loved as a fan, this is a sincere tribute to his career and a chance for his fans to “get together” and mourn, and it was taped within hours of his death. That means that I have to be careful. So if I do offend, at least you know I was making an effort not to…
RAW IS GUERRERO
The Big Show and Kane over Joey Mercury and Johnny Nitro, Champion Versus Champion Match (Pinfall, TBS pins Nitro, double chokeslam): Well, the match was non-offensive, but I do have to question the entrances. Was Kane’s pyro really necessary? Was MNM’s red-carpet stuff really appropriate? In this case, I wouldn’t have bothered with it. This is a situation where the flourishes distract from the purpose.
Kurt Angle over Shelton Benjamin (Submission, AngleLock): Hey, Joey mentioned Team Angle! You think Ross would have done that? Yeah, I know, inappropriate cheap shot. The guys were right, though; Eddy would have loved this match. It showed off two guys with complementary styles working well against each other. Now, considering my remarks about the last match, do you think I’m going to excoriate the audience regarding chanting “You Suck”? No, I’m not. It’s now inextricably part of Angle’s entrance and out of “creative”‘s control to stop. They could have not had Kane’s pyro or MNM’s red carpet, but expecting the audience to stop chanting “You Suck” is beyond them. Remember that story I had last week about the Australian basketball game where they played “Anthem” and the crowd chanted “You Suck” for no reason? It’s connected to the tune by an umbilical. So if you can’t stop something, why bother trying?
Rey-Rey over Shawn Michaels (Pinfall, springboard legdrop): Yes, he definitely would have approved. And so do I. High-quality match, definitely. And that brings us to the speculation part. The original plan, of course, was for Batista to drop the title at the show to either Eddy or Orton, probably Eddy. Now that he’s going to try to rehab his lats instead of having surgery, Batista’s only expected to be out four to six weeks. Do they keep the title on him or do a switch next week in Sheffield as a perk for the Britfans? If they decide to do the title drop, how about a very strange Triple Threat: Batista/Orton/Rey-Rey, with Rey-Rey winning the title? I don’t think Rey-Rey would go for it, as it would be correctly seen as him winning the title because of Eddy’s death, but it’s still something interesting to think about.
Melina over (in order of elimination) MickieLexis LaJames, Jillian Hall, Ashley Massaro, Christy Hemme, Candice Michelle, Victoria, Maria Kanelis, and Trish Stratus, Mamacita Battle Royal: Normally, I’d be like white on rice about the booking, specifically why eliminate two of the real women wrestlers, LaJames and Hall, first (they had a kick-ass match in OVW recently). However, given the nature of the night, none of this really mattered. Unless they follow through on Melina’s apparent desire to challenge Trish. Do that at SurSer or wait until Royal Rumble?
The Retard over Simon Dean (Pinfall, uranage): I would have been far more entertained had it been Nick Dinsmore versus Nova, of course. I also object to the presence of a pure comedy match on this particular show. Yes, the doom and gloom had to be relieved, but this wasn’t the way to do it.
It ain’t just me, folks. KC Evers (no relation) also feels that way: Okay…I was just gonna sit back and not worry about the weekly email this week, but an Eddie tribute with Eugene Vs Simon Fucking Dean???????
Mister Flair over Mister Regal, Non-Title Match (Submission, figure-four): They’ve been gone for fifteen years now, so there aren’t many people in Minneapolis who remember AWA. I was old enough and in the right area to be exposed to AWA, and this match was essentially an AWA quickie. Yes, I know Regal never competed in AWA, but he would have fit right in there (oh, the matches that Regal today could have had with the Curt Hennig of 1987…). Weird thing to think about on a night like this, but…oh, hell, I want the rematch on PPV, I want it given at least fifteen, and I don’t want you bastards to start chanting “Boring” during it.
James Lawson casts some aspersions, but they’re only appropriate ones given the circumstances:
Not to speculate too much, but if Eddy’s death was partially due to his prescription drug abuse, Regal took much more than that. Gotta wonder what he’s thinking.
“There but for the grace of God,” I should think. They’re roughly the same age as well, which has to add to Regal’s thoughts. And it’s made me think about me in that regard. The only thing I can say is that even though Regal and I took a surprising number of the same medications (which I outlined when Regal’s book came out), I never abused them. Regal and I are both headed toward Liver Transplant Central in the future, though.
John Cena over Randy Orton, Non-Title Match (DQ, Cowboy-ference): Eddy would not have wanted to be bored by this little spectacle, I think. And, Randy, pimp your goddamn T-shirt some other time.
Angle Developments, Tributes, Etc.:
The Assemblage: It struck me while watching Vince’s speech about the men out there paying tribute. This may be one of the greatest collections of sports entertainment talents that you could imagine. Four decades of top wrestlers were represented out there, from Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes and Gerry Brisco to Ted DiBiase to Shawn Michaels and Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko to Kurt Angle and Shelton Benjamin and today’s up-and-comers. And they were all there to sincerely honor a man who’d touched all of them with his ability and his personality. One minute into the show, and I already knew the image that I’d carry with me from it.
The Video: Perfect choice of music, of course. Decent selection of video clips; wish they could have included more of the older stuff. But it’s another wonderful WWE montage, back to their old standard. Very sweet.
The Ravin’ Cajun agrees as per the music: The use of “Hurt” was too damn much for me, coupled with the video that they showed. I was shaking at the end of that.
George Jones was always the King of Broken Hearts. But Johnny Cash showed, just in time, that he could do the job just as well. Yes, it took a Trent Reznor song to do it, but it was perfect.
The Speeches: It’s rather jarring to see Cena this subdued. And articulate for that matter, which also surprised me with Garcia, who usually can’t string two words together. Michaels brought up the born-again stuff; no surprise there, really. I wish he hadn’t, but then again, I realize that some people in the audience are foolish enough to be Christians, and WWE has to appeal to them. Chavito…I can imagine how long that took to tape. In the visible parts, he was always on the verge of completely losing it. I can imagine how many times he actually did so. And speaking of losing it, did you catch a look at Batista’s eyes? They told the whole story. It takes a lot of crying to give your eyes the raw-bacon look that Batista’s had. Rey-Rey demasking at the end said more than his words did, in either language. In the lucha culture, you don’t remove the mask except in the most dire of circumstances, and this qualifies. Watching Benoit lose it was physically painful. Someone had to bring up the “demons”, and that was Trip’s designated role. However, I have to admit that he was a lot more sincere here than he was when talking about Owen. The sincerity extended to Trip’s wife, and for once, Steph wasn’t lying through her teeth. She also gave away the secret booking for what was supposed to happen on Sunday; Eddy WAS supposed to have won the title after all. Of course, Steph probably thought that she was keeping kayfabe.
The Vignettes: Out of all of them, I liked the “Lie, Cheat, Steal” one the best. It showed Eddy in his most entertaining persona, and showed him off quite well. Again, the video department’s taken some knocks recently for its slipshod work compared to its peak, but they were on for this, and thank heavens for that.
And As A Fanboy At Heart…: Divorcing myself from the import of this show and of Smackdown later this week, I do have to make this comment: I know that this was extraordinary circumstance. However, the feel of this show was like a sherbet at the end of a large meal. It cleansed the palate and helped the digestion of the ten courses of crap that they normally serve. This was a one-shot (well, a two-shot if you include Smackdown). So was One-Night Stand, but they’re having it again next year. How about once a year, at one of these supershow tapings, they just forget about the angles for a night and throw the two rosters together for something like this? Just once a year, that’s all. Don’t set up any kind of Raw versus Smackdown thing, just throw the guys at each other and don’t announce any matches beforehand. It’d be a nice break from what we normally get. Between Wrestlemania and SummerSlam would be the best time, I think.
I’m going to close this off and try to remember the good stuff. You do the same.